A blood test could tell you the best way to stop smoking

Want to stop smoking this year? It can be one of the hardest addictions to break, but new research suggests that testing how quickly smokers break down nicotine in the body could make it easier for people to give up, by determining what the best method for them would be.

As the BBC reports, a team from the University of Pennsylvania studied 1240 people who wanted to kick the habit. Using a blood test, they found out whether each participant broke nicotine down slowly or at an average rate. They then gave them treatment with either a nicotine replacement patch, varenicline – a medication which relieves cravings and withdrawal symptoms, or a placebo.

They found that varenicline was more effective than the patch for people who broke down nicotine normally, perhaps because their faster metabolisms have them craving cigarettes sooner. People who broke nicotine down more slowly had similar success rates with both treatments but experienced more side effects from the drug, making it harder for them to keep taking it.

The test is routine in medical research, but rarely used by doctors. If its use was expanded it would initially be more expensive but could also save the NHS money in the long run, which would be a pretty big deal considering smoking currently costs it around £6 billion a year.

Image via Fried Dough’s Flickr.

Diane Shipley